Between a Rokh and a hard vacuum

15th December 2012 – 3.33 pm

I'm out looking for activity, and hoping to find more than yesterday. I suppose that shouldn't be difficult, as a single moving ship will do the trick. A second signature in the home system isn't going to offer any help, being a mere ladar site, so I resolve the static wormhole and jump to our neighbouring class 3 w-space system. A Rokh battleship visible on my directional scanner is interesting, but a tower and lack of wrecks makes it less likely to be active. The battleship blinking off d-scan a moment later shows how little I know.

Of course, the Rokh could have gone off-line, but let's stay positive and warp towards the inner system to see if it's still around. Yes, yes it is, and so are other ships. Two more towers light up d-scan, along with a second Rokh, a Retriever mining barge, Hulk exhumer, Bestower hauler, Nighthawk command ship, and a Drake and Harbinger battlecruiser. And a corpse. That gives me pause. If someone has been caught and podded already, it seems less likely that more will happen. Or that I'll be outnumbered by prepared locals, or sucker-punched by a roaming gang. Still, I don't know the details, and the least I can do is continue as normal for now.

All of the ships appear to be at one of the two towers, which is simply found as being around a planet with a single moon. I see the Harbinger and Bestower are piloted, and that not all of the ships are here. The first Rokh is elsewhere, and not at the other tower. I still see no Sleeper wrecks appearing, and a passive scan for anomalies shows the battleship isn't in one of them, which leaves me pondering whether the Rokh is in the process of collapsing a wormhole, perhaps a result of the corpse in the system. Let me launch probes to see what's out there.

Eight anomalies, six signatures, all ships accounted for. Now to find the Rokh. The battleship isn't dropping off d-scan, so it's not jumping, cloaking, or warping to and from the first, out-of-range tower, and there still are no Sleeper wrecks. I would say it's gassing. And as I have combat probes out I may as well see if I can find him. This is simple enough, as I've had a fair bit of practice, and get the Rokh within a five degree d-scan beam and at a range of just under 2·5 AU. I arrange my probes appropriately, wait for the disappeared Rokh to presumably return from unloading some gas at its tower, and call my probes in to scan.

It's a perfect scan result, but a battleship is a fat target. I would be embarrassed to miss it. And now that I've found the ship, indeed in a ladar site, I need to work out what to do about it. Can my little Loki successfully engage a battleship? Are the other pilots awake, and willing to scramble to catch me? I suppose there's one way to find out the answer to both questions. I haven't wasted time whilst thinking this through, and have reconnoitred the ladar site in the meantime, where the Rokh is seemingly happily gassing away. Seemingly.

Now that I am ready to take a shot at the battleship I see that it is moving, slowly but steadily, which suggests to me that my probes were spotted and the pilot is aligning her ship ready for warp. If I got my approach even the littlest bit wrong I would not be able to prevent the battleship's escape, so I had better get it right. This shouldn't be too much trouble, although it's not as simple as ambushing a stationary ship. First, I warp in close enough to get my camera drones directly on the ship. This lets me see that the ship does indeed appear to be aligned, back to its tower, and probably ready for warp. That's okay, as I can account for that. I just need to be in a different position.

Knowing that the Rokh will flee to its tower is good. Rather than approach from the side and allow the ship to warp clear, I just need to realign my approach to be head-on, which is simplicity itself when I know the direction the Rokh is heading. I warp out to the distant planet, find the tower for reference, and return to the ladar site from the tower, making a new monitoring point on my way in. Now I am directly between the Rokh and the tower. I can warp in close, set a collision course whilst still cloaked, and have the Rokh nudge itself out of alignment on my prow, whilst my sensors recalibrate from being cloaked.

It's a good plan, but the plan somewhat relies on the Rokh remaining where it is for just a little bit longer. Sadly, it blips out of existence rather abruptly, leaving me wondering what just happened. It looks like the ship cloaked, as I'm sure I would have noticed it warping straight through my ship. I suspect it has been taken unexpectedly off-line, which is unfortunate for the both of us. But if that's the case, then she'll be back, so I align towards the gas cloud in preparation. And a few minutes later I warp to the tower to watch the Harbinger and Bestower, hoping they'll do something, whilst watching d-scan for the Rokh's reappearance.

Okay, there she is. I warp back to my monitoring point in the ladar site, but the Rokh is gone. Assuming she's recovered from the crash I head back to see the battleship at the first tower, but only for long enough to swap to a Condor frigate, which warps away, and not to the ladar site. She's not gone quite long enough for me to decide to launch probes again, and on her return the pilot swaps ships again, this time to a Navy Issue Raven battleship, before going off-line intentionally this time. Damn, I missed my shot because I was too cautious.

I found the Rokh using d-scan, and got its position with one scan of my combat probes. I knew what was in the system, and my scan confirmed my suspicion that the Rokh was gassing. Even though reconnoitring the site showed that the battleship had weapons as well as gas harvesters fitted, I probably should have just gone in hot, with the element of surprise. My caution allowed more careful stalking, I can't deny that, but it cost time that I ended up not having. Still, I gained more practical experience which could come in useful, even if I don't get the kill today.

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